And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
- Romans 13:11-14
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
- Psalm 112:4
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
- Isaiah 9:2
It is close at hand—
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was in ancient times
nor ever will be in ages to come.
- Joel 2:1b-2
“What do we, who today no longer have any fear or awe of the darkness or night, know about the great joy that our forebears and the early Christians felt every morning at the return of the light? If we were to learn again something of the praise and adoration that is due the triune God early in the morning, then we would also begin to sense something of the joy that comes when night is past and those who dwell with one another come together early in the morning to praise their God and hear the Word and pray together. We would learn again of God the Father and Creator who has preserved our life through the dark night and awakened us to a new day; God the Son and Savior of the World, who vanquished death and hell for us, and dwells in our midst as Victor; God the Holy Spirit who pours the bright light of God’s Word into our hearts early in the morning, driving away all darkness and sin and teaching us to pray the right way. Morning does not belong to the individual; it belongs to all the church of the triune God, to the community of Christians living together [Hausgemeinschaft], to the community of brothers [Bruderschaft]. The ancient hymns that call the community of faith to praise God together in the early morning are inexhaustible. That is why the Bohemian Brethren sing in this manner at the break of day: ‘The day does now dark night dispel; / Dear Christians, wake and rouse you well. / Your praises to the Lord sing true; / And pondering the image of God in you, / Proclaim the Lord’s wonders ever anew. / Once more the daylight shines abroad, / O brethren, let us praise the Lord, / Whose grace and mercy thus have kept / The nightly watch while we have slept. / We beg your care this new born day, / For us, poor pilgrims on our way, / O by us stand to help and guide, / That evil on us ne’er betide. / For this there comes the light of day, /O brethren, let us thanksgiving say. / To gentle God who guarded us this darkened night, / Whose grace stood watch o’er us in every plight. / We offer up ourselves to you, / may our wants, words, and deeds he true. / In union with your heart will you us lead. / In you will our work be graced indeed.’”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
As for the photo, this was a sunrise near where my wife receives her kidney dialysis. This was less than a month ago, and with God’s blessing, I will see a similar sky before the days start to get longer, since we are no longer in daylight savings time.
Here is West Pittsfield K Group singing, The Morning Song. The first verse is mostly the same as what Bonhoeffer wrote, possibly different due to translation and musical composition.
Does Dietrich Bonhoeffer really suggest that the Christian community start each day, at dawn, with worship? Maybe a seminary community, nut the people on our block? I mean, it is so hard to just get a small crowd out on Easter morning to worship as the sun rises, but every day?
What is wrong with that? When we go to Heaven, we will be glorifying God forever. We will be with Jesus forever. Why not do it for a week? Why not do it for a year, but only two days each week, or three?
When I was growing up, we had Sunday morning worship. The added sunrise service was only on Easter morning. Most of the church had already been there for an hour for Sunday school, few adults only went to just the worship service. Then, in the evening, we went back to church. Instead of giving another sermon or a repeat of the morning’s sermon, the pastor led a Bible study, but the youth had a meeting before this Bible study. In all, the youth group was at the church for about six hours each Sunday. Then on Wednesday night, we had prayer meeting. Prayer meeting consisted of three parts. The first part was a song session, singing the old hymns in the old hymnal (old meaning a hymnal printed earlier than 1920), with a lot of echo refrains where the 70+ men tried to down out everyone else. You always had a smile by the time the prayer requests started pouring in. And that led to open prayer from any and all in attendance, out loud, spontaneous. And usually the pastor took notes so that if we did not bring up a prayer request that had been mentioned earlier while we were praying out loud, he would include it at the end.
Now there are two or three worship services on Sunday, but they include the same sermon for each. Our church used to have a growing contemporary service on Sunday evening, but it has not been revived since the lockdown. The Sunday school is poorly attended, and less than 10% of the adults attend, not counting those who are teaching classes. If there is a Bible study during the week, most who attend are the same ones who attend adult Sunday school.
This description may not be a description of your church, but I think it is fairly typical.
Yet, before the electronic age and the television age, people attended church. Were they simply there for the entertainment? Now that entertainment is everywhere, they prefer the electronic version of entertainment to a “boring” church service?
Many churches jazzed up the service to hold attendance numbers higher, but what are we missing?
I think Bonhoeffer hit upon it. We have electric light. We can turn a light on if the darkness feels like it is closing in around us. We do not have the majesty of the sun rising and everything is flooded with light in the morning.
If we can recapture that moment when we saw the sunrise and it seemed to be the most blessed relief that we could ever imagine, we could realize what it was like, only in part, to see Jesus, risen from the dead.
Every morning? No, we would simply ruin the moment, get bored with it because our heart is not in it. But we must as individuals and even communities try to capture that special moment.
God is ready to show us His Glory.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.